Professional women are no longer viewed as a novelty since they comprise almost 50% of the workforce in the US. Yet, being a woman of African descent while embracing kinky, curly, or braided hairstyles can still raise eyebrows in the workplace. Some women have shattered the stereotypes and ascended to the top of their field while rocking a ‘fro or a twist out. We salute these trailblazers!
Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She is also the author of “Expect to Win” and “Strategize to Win”. Through her “Carla’s Pearls” movement, she motivates and educates women (and men too) and the youth to plan for success. Ms. Harris also expresses her talent through music, having performed sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall and releasing several albums. She is unapologetic about being smart, talented, and rocking a natural low haircut in one of the world top financial institutions. In her own words, “Leaders need to be authentic, decisive, and empowering”.
Debra L. Lee
Debra is the former Chairman and Chief Executive officer of BET Networks. This professional woman was named one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment” by The Hollywood Reporter due to her long tenure in the industry. The former Harvard Law school graduate is known for being an innovator and brand building strategist which has landed her (a well-deserved) spot on Twitter’s board of director table.
Her achievements are numerous and impressive. She is a pioneer in her own right as she is the first African-American executive woman to receive the Vanguard Award for Leadership from the National Cable Television Association. To us, Ms. Lee deserves an image award for breaking the stereotypes of the entertainment industry. In 2012, she surprised many with a big chop creating a teeny-weeny afro.
Marjora is the leader of an economic and environmental development movement which started in her native South Bronx community and expanded across the US. The TED Talk Speaker, blogger, activist, and businesswoman express herself with confidence and conviction about eco-friendly solutions to urban problems. She also uses her platform to help diversify the US tech sector. Her hard work has been rewarded with many awards including recognition in 2010 as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by the Fast Company magazine.
As the CEO of the Majora Carter Group, this professional works with renowned clients such as Whole Foods, Nike, and Cisco. With her luxurious braids or ‘fro, Ms. Carter brings a refreshing and positive image to the consulting world.
As the former Managing Director of the World Bank, Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala demonstrated her understanding of the financial industry on a global scale. Her work extended to politics as a two-time finance Cabinet Minister of her native country, Nigeria. She was instrumental in increasing transparency in government dealing by publishing states’ monthly financial allocation from the Nigerian Federal Government to the newspapers.
This accomplished naturalista can often be seen wearing her traditional headbands and hats which defy the “professional” dress code of most financial institutions.
As the Global Director of Diversity of Facebook, Maxine Williams has the tall order to improve the employee landscape of one of the largest Tech Company in Silicon Valley. Her natural hairstyle did not reduce her drive to succeed: “Whether it was when I auditioned for an improv comedy group at Yale, created my own major in Caribbean studies, won a Rhodes Scholarship, or started acting while studying law at Oxford University, the belief that effort and risk can lead to reward has never wanes,” the Trinidad and Tobago native wrote on LeanIn.org.